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Uhuru’s foreign policy should protect Nairobi

By Dismas Mokua | December 15th 2013

Dismas Mokua

[email protected]

The Independence Day celebrations offered a glimpse of the shifting foreign policy priorities for the larger East African leadership.

Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete revealed that indeed Tanzania has had a fundamental shift in her foreign policy. Mwalimu Nyerere’s foreign policy had zero interest in economics but placed a premium on revolutionary politics.  He issued a circular in 1964 that among other things would support struggles against colonialism, racism and neo-colonialism in Africa and vigorously support oppressed people in the world. That is why Mwalimu Nyerere, along with several other leaders formed OAU in 1963.

Mwalimu Nyerere’s fingerprints are to be seen all over Africa. He supported both ANC and Pan African Congress in South Africa as he did in Mozambique where he gave Frelimo financial support to kick out the Portuguese.

MPLA resources in Angola and ZANLA in Zimbabwe were beneficiaries of his revolutionary passion. In 1978 he led Tanzania in a war with Uganda to defeat and expel the Idi Amin government.

That is why President Kikwete’s speech at Kasarani on Thursday was remarkable. It was a confirmation that Tanzania’s newfound foreign policy is driven by economic diplomacy and respects Kenya’s role in the global arena. That is why despite missing out on some key East African meetings, President Kikwete addressed his Parliament and indicated that Tanzania has invested a fortune in the East African Community and will not be pushed out.

It was interesting that President Kikwete chose to reaffirm his commitment to the East African Community (EAC) at a public celebration in Nairobi instead of a closed- door meeting. A careful analysis of his body language reveals that his message was meant for Wanjiku. In not so many words, he said that if the EAC ails, it would not be because of Tanzania but because of leaderships shifting interests. President Kikwete has deployed his foreign policy with great success. That is why White House consults him on critical socio-economic issues in the region.  That is why US and Chinese investors are beating a path to Tanzania. Mr Meles Zenawi, the late Ethiopian Prime Minister, did not have time for soft power; he instead deployed raw power to achieve Ethiopia’s strategic interests in the region. That is how he settled scores with Eritrea and Somalia.  On the other hand, President Yoweri Museveni’s foreign policy has not embraced economic diplomacy.

He decided to step into muddy waters. By revisiting history, President Museveni was effectively poking a healing wound. He would have probably made sense had he stuck to the colonial theme, which Uganda’s first President Fredrick Edward Mutesa had as a key anchor of his foreign policy.

It is debatable if President Museveni’s national interests are in harmony with Kenya’s aspirations in the long term. President Kenyatta’s economic diplomacy, although driven by family interests, will open up new markets for Kenyans and Kenyan domiciled companies. There is no doubt that Gaborone and Dar es Salaam are good friends.

Writer is Nairobi based Communications Counsel. He analyses business and politics

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